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Why Won’t Queso Blanco Melt?

Why Won’t Queso Blanco Melt?

Wondering how to make queso blanco cheese melt? To make a long story short, its melting point is Pointless. Read on to find out why.

Queso blanco.

By all means, a formidable cheese with a unique texture and flavor profile. And a favorite taco topping of many. But why won’t it melt?

The answer lies in the way this cheese is made and how the ingredients and technique used in its production affect its ability to melt—or not—in the heat.

Cheese making is about turning milk into cheese. Sounds obvious, I know, but behind it is a complex process in which the loosely floating casein proteins in the milk are made to cling together and clump up.

This process is called coagulation, and its result is called curdling. Without coagulation, the milk wouldn’t curdle. Instead, it would stay liquid and there would be no cheese… at least not in the form we know and love today.

So far, so good. To understand why queso blanco won’t melt, you need to know about the different ways to curdle cheese.

Melter cheeses are curdled with rennet, an enzyme produced in the stomachs of cows, goats, and sheep that curdles the proteins in milk to make them more digestible. Rennet serves the same purpose in cheesemaking; it triggers coagulation and turns milk to cheese.

Here’s where it gets a little tricky:

Not all cheeses curdled with rennet are necessarily good melters. The longer a cheese matures, the more moisture it loses—and the more moisture a cheese loses, the stiffer it becomes and the harder it is to melt.

So younger rennet-curdled cheese that pack more moisture melt easier than matured cheeses that don’t. This is why Mozzarella, Gruyère, and Emmental melt more than, say, Grana Padano, Parmigiano-Reggiano, and Pecorino Romano.

(In case you’re asking, this is also why mature cheddar holds its shape, while young cheddar melts all over your sandwich or pizza.)

Where’s queso blanco in all of this?

The long answer short is nowhere, because it isn’t curdled with rennet to begin with. Queso blanco, you see, is a non-melter cheese curdled with acid.

Queso blanco is one of the simpler cheeses to make. It’s made by heating whole milk and adding vinegar or citrus juice. The cheese curdles—and the curds are poured into a cheesecloth. The water is then squeezed out and the cheese is left to drain for a few hours until it’s still moist but no longer watery.

Most non-melters are curdled with acid, whether that’s lime juice, lemon juice, or vinegar. The acid alters the structure of the casein proteins irreversibly and in a way that prevents them from untangling when exposed to heat. Instead, the proteins clamp up even more, and they begin to expel water.

So there you have it:

Queso blanco is not a cheese that melts because it’s curdled with acid, and cheeses curdled with acid stiffen up when they are heated. If you want a cheese that melts, opt for mozzarella or a younger cheddar instead.

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Dim is a food writer, cookbook author, and the editor of Home Cook World. His first book, Cooking Methods & Techniques, was published in 2022. He is a certified food handler with Level 1 and Level 2 Certificates in Food Hygiene and Safety for Catering, and a trained cook with a Level 3 Professional Chef Diploma.

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